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Forecasting the Growth of Complexity and Change—An Update

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  • Growth Dynamics
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Abstract

In 2002, Modis published an article forecasting that the rate of change in our lives was about to stop accelerating and indeed begin decelerating. Today, with twenty years’ worth more data, Modis revisits those forecasts. He points outs that an exponential trend would have predicted the appearance of three “cosmic” milestones by now, namely in 2008, 2015, and 2018, but we have seen none. The logistic trend, however, predicted the next milestone around 2033 and could well turn out to be a cluster of achievements in AI, robotics, nanotechnology, and bioengineering, analogous to what happened with the milestone at the turn of the 20th century. He sees this as confirmation that the concept of a Singularity is not called for.

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... This work was triggered by the author's invitation to speak at the international symposium on Social singularity in the 21st century: At the crossroads of history in Prague, CZ on September 18, 2021(InstituteH21, 2021 They asked him for an update of his 20-year old work on the evolution of complexity and change in our lives (Modis, 2002;Modis, 2003) and its impact on the possibility of an approaching technological singularity. The author has previously published three related updates Modis, 2012;Modis, 2020.) During the last ten years there has been much literature published on the subjects of complexity and singularity. ...
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Entropy always increases monotonically in a closed system but complexity increases at first and then decreases as equilibrium is approached. Commonsense information-related definitions for entropy and complexity demonstrate that complexity behaves like the time derivative of entropy, which is proposed here as a new definition for complexity. A 20-year old study had attempted to quantify complexity (in arbitrary units) for the entire Universe in terms of 28 milestones, breaks in historical perspective, and had concluded that complexity will soon begin decreasing. That conclusion is now corroborated by other researchers. In addition, the exponential runaway technology trend advocated by supporters of the singularity hypothesis—which was in part based on the trend of the very 28 milestones mentioned above—would have anticipated five new such milestones by now, but none have been observed. The conclusions of the 20-year old study remain valid: we are at the maximum of complexity and we should expect the next two milestones at around 2033 and 2078. You can read a preprint here: https://osf.io/6nwf9/
... The issue of a global history singularity has been discussed quite actively for more than a decade (see, e.g., Panov 2005Panov , 2017Panov , 2020Kurzweil 2005;Ayres 2006;Modis 2006Modis , 2020Magee and Devezas 2011;Shanahan 2015;Callaghan et al., 2017;Korotayev 2018Korotayev , 2020Nazaretyan 2015, Nazaretyan, 2016, Nazaretyan 2017LePoire 2020). This subject became especially popular after the 2005 publication of Raymond Kurzweil's (Google's director of engineering) book The Singularity Is Near. ...
Article
The authors quantitatively analyse the long-term dynamics of technological progress from 40,000 BCE and offer projections through the 22nd century. We provide one method to measure technological progress over that time period, using a simple hyperbolic equation, yt = C/(t0 – t), as our model. We define yt as the technological growth rate, measured as number of technological phase transitions per unit of time. Our method measures the worldwide technology dynamic growth with an accuracy of R² = 0.99. We find the singularity date occurs in the early 21st century and expect a new powerful acceleration of technological development after the 2030s followed by a slow-down in the late 21st and early 22nd centuries. The authors discuss the role of global ageing as one of the main factors in both the technological acceleration and the subsequent deceleration.
... Note that Modis [2002Modis [ , 2003Modis [ , 2005Modis [ , 2012; as well as in his Chapter "Forecasting the Growth of Complexity and Change-An Update" in the present volume (Modis 2020)] also interprets the maximum acceleration of the complexity growth rate that he detects around 2000 CE as an inflexion point after which we will deal with the deceleration of the global complexity growth rate. In fact, the earliest known to me attempt to detect mathematically a singularity in a series of what Modis would call "canonical milestones" of planetary evolution 32 was undertaken in 2001 (thus, just a year before Modis' seminal article in the Technological Forecasting and Social Change) by Sergey Grinchenko [see Grinchenko 2001; see also Grinchenko 2004Grinchenko , 2006aGrinchenko, Shchapova 2010, 2017aShchapova, Grinchenko 2017, as well as Chapter "The Deductive Approach to Big 29 Incidentally, this is very close to the singularity of 2005 CE that we detected earlier for Maddison (2001) series of the world GDP estimates (Korotayev et al. 2006a, b;Korotayev and Malkov 2016), and that was detected even much earlier for the same date by Taagepera (Taagepera 1976) in the world GDP estimates available to him by that time. ...
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The idea that in the near future we should expect “the Singularity” has become quite popular recently, primarily thanks to the activities of Google technical director in the field of machine training Raymond Kurzweil and his book The Singularity Is Near (2005). It is shown that the mathematical analysis of the series of events (described by Kurzweil in his famous book), which starts with the emergence of our galaxy and ends with the decoding of the DNA code, is indeed ideally described by an extremely simple mathematical function (not known to Kurzweil himself) with a singularity in the region of 2029. It is also shown that a similar time series (beginning with the onset of life on Earth and ending with the information revolution—composed by the Russian physicist Alexander Panov completely independently of Kurzweil) is also practically perfectly described by a mathematical function (very similar to the above and not used by Panov) with a singularity in the region of 2027. It is shown that this function is also extremely similar to the equation discovered in 1960 by Heinz von Foerster and published in his famous article in the journal “Science”—this function almost perfectly describes the dynamics of the world population up to the early 1970s and is characterized by a mathematical singularity in the region of 2027. All this indicates the existence of sufficiently rigorous global macroevolutionary regularities (describing the evolution of complexity on our planet for a few billions of years), which can be surprisingly accurately described by extremely simple mathematical functions. At the same time, it is demonstrated that in the region of the Singularity point there is no reason, after Kurzweil, to expect an unprecedented (many orders of magnitude) acceleration of the rates of technological development. There are more grounds for interpreting this point as an indication of an inflection point, after which the pace of global evolution will begin to slow down systematically in the long term.
... Theodore Modis ("Forecasting the Growth of Complexity and Change -An Update") presents an update of his groundbreaking 2002 paper in Technological Forecasting and Social Change (Chapter 4 [Modis 2019]). In that paper, he analyzed the compilation of major events over the life of the universe development and evolution on Earth to construct a pattern that seemed logistic or exponential when the time was plotted on a log-scale. ...
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This introductory chapter discusses the overall place of the twenty-first-century Singularity within the overall Big History. It is shown that to place the accelerating trend of complexity in the context of Big History, we need to distinguish the two forms (arms) of megaevolution so far in the universe. The first arm of evolution is the decelerating development of physical matter and energy into galaxies, stars, and planets from the initial Big Bang. The second arm of evolution is the accelerating rate of complexity evolution in the form of life, humans, and civilizations, which is the main concern of this book. The book is organized to present these historical megatrends, models, interpretations, future scenarios, and more philosophical questions along with the realization and debate about their limitations and uncertainty.
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The present paper analyzes the evolution of technology from the beginning of human history. We introduce a new paradigm to analyze the causes and trends of the global evolution. We describe the direction of technological transformations and discuss and explain the present and forthcoming technological changes. We also present a detailed analysis of the latest technological revolution, which we denote as ‘Cybernetic,’ and give some forecasts about its development up to the end of the twenty-first century. It is shown that the expansion of various self-regulating systems will be the main trend of this revolution. We argue that the technological transition of the final phase of the Cybernetics revolution will start in medicine, which is to be the keystone of technological convergence forming the system of MANBRIC-technologies (based on medicine, additive, nano-, bio-, robotics, IT, and cognitive technologies). Today, we are at the threshold to the new era of unprecedented control of a human body, considerable life extension, organ replacement, brain–computer interfaces, robotics, genome editing, etc. The authors describe the mechanisms of technological development and discuss possible risks as well as the limits of post-human revolution.
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Chapter
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